Rego: Faking service dogs on campus is still a growing issue

Shay Rego

Editor’s Note: The views expressed in the following column are those of the writer only and do not necessarily represent the views of The Collegian or its editorial board.

Having a service dog has seemingly become a trend. Whether it’s the 50-year-old lady carrying around her corgi in a Target shopping cart, or a college student bringing their family pet to classes with them, it is illegal.

Ad

When claiming to have a service dog which is not a service dog, a person is falsely claiming to have a disability. It is illegal to claim to have a disability, and it is also illegal to impersonate a pet dog as a service dog.

The Americans with Disabilities Act defines a service dog any type of assistance dog specifically trained to perform tasks to aid a person with disabilities.

Service dogs are classified as medical equipment, including service dogs in training. The ADA also states that service dogs are allowed to accompany their handlers virtually anywhere. There is no federal registration that exists for service dogs. 

A teacher, business manager or any authority figure may only ask two questions to verify the authenticity of a service dog: Is this a service dog? What task(s) is it trained to perform?

There are plenty of service dogs-in-training on campus, but there are also plenty of pets too. Some people believe that if their dog is simply well-behaved then it is okay to bring their pet to class. This includes young puppies only weeks old.

Pets and emotional support animals do not require training. People, either by ignorance or misunderstanding, are misrepresenting their animals as service dogs.

A service dog is defined as any type of assistance dog specifically trained to perform tasks to aid a person with disabilities.

Many people don’t understand the differences between a service dog and an ESA. The simple distinction is that ESAs are not specifically trained to perform tasks and only have housing and flying rights. No public access otherwise. Some people may use the term “emotional support service dog,” but this is incorrect and misleading as emotional support dogs and service dogs are different.

Faking a service dog can be as easy as buying a vest or a scam ID online. One does not register a service dog. ADA clearly states, “organizations that sell animal certification or registration documents online … do not convey any rights under the ADA and the Department of Justice does not recognize them as proof.” 

Obtaining a service dog is not as simple as someone going online and buying a registration.

There are certain programs available, such as Canine Companions for Independence on campus, which will give a form of certification after the dog’s training completion. These programs spend years training dogs. Such programs are nationally recognized as legitimate projects that produce fully trained dogs through the use of professional trainers.

Ad

Colorado State University’s campus has become rampant with fake service dogs. A dog’s training and behavior is a clear indicator.

In accordance with CSU’s policy, pets are not permitted in any University buildings.

ESAs have been verified to accommodate an individual in University housing, but only service animals are permitted in all University properties. The policy clearly distinguishes the difference between service animals and pets, clarifying that service animals are not pets.

Teachers have just as much responsibility as students. Teachers need to do a better job of screening their classrooms for illegitimate service dogs or asking the proper questions about a dog.

University policy clearly states there are causes for removal of any animal from University buildings. Reasons include if the animal is not housebroken, if the animal is out of control and the handler does not take effective action to control it. Teachers have the responsibility to control distractions in their classrooms. Students have recognized the threat that these fake service dogs bring to campus. 

Anyone who has a dog knows the immeasurable love an owner has with their pet. We would love to be with our dog everywhere they go, but it’s not fair to service dogs and their handlers. There aren’t any excuses for faking a service dog.

Faking a service dog is not only morally wrong, it’s against the law.

Having a disability requiring the use of medical equipment, such as a service animal, shouldn’t be considered cool or trendy. To fake a service dog is to fake a disability and no one should ever pretend they are disabled.

Shay Rego can be reached at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter at @shay_rego.